Mordenite and clinoptilolite have replaced glass shards and pumice in vitric tuffs that are the products of ash fall-out into lake basins of late Quaternary age in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The vitric tuffs are intercalated with siltstone and diatomite and overlie pumice-rich, rhyolitic ignimbrite. A Zr/TiO2-Nb/Y immobile element ratio plot indicates that the vitric tuffs, like the ignimbrite, are of rhyolitic composition. X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy studies indicate that the mordenite and clinoptilolite are accompanied by authigenic K-feldspar and Opal-CT. The zeolites and other authigenic minerals are very fine grained (<10 μm), with open meshes of acicular mordenite crystals that result in low densities (0.7–1.0 g cm−3) in mordenite-rich tuffs. From Pearce element ratio analysis of whole-rock chemical analyses, only Na and K appear to have been mobilized during alteration. The zeolite deposits are associated with sinter, hydrothermal eruption breccias and silicified fault breccias that represent surface or near-surface manifestations of geothermal activity. Plant material extracted from a sinter overlying one of the deposits has a 14C age of 8498±60 BP, which is interpreted to be the age of zeolite deposition for this deposit. Mordenite and clinoptilolite occur in the lower-T (60–110°C) parts of some active or recently active geothermal systems elsewhere in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The main fluid in these systems is weakly saline (alkali-chloride) water heated by geothermal activity. The Ngakuru zeolite deposits are interpreted as the products of the reaction of vitric tuffs with this type of water in the near-surface part of recently active geothermal systems.

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